CIGARETTE giant British American Tobacco Australia has flagged a massive legal fight against the Gillard government’s plan to bring in plain packaging.
BATA says Canberra may have to pay billions of dollars in compensation to cigarette firms if it brings in plain olive green packaging.
Health Minister Nicola Roxon will unveil draft legislation this morning requiring tobacco companies to print their brand name in a specific font. She has released the planned new design for packaging.
If the legislation is passed cigarette packs would have to be sold in an ugly olive green because research showed this was the least attractive colour for smokers, Ms Roxon has said.
But BATA – whose brands include Winfield, Dunhill and Benson & Hedges – said the government’s proposal would infringe international trademark and intellectual property laws.
“The government could end up wasting millions of taxpayers’ dollars in legal fees trying to defend their decision, let alone the potential to pay billions to the tobacco industry for taking away our intellectual property,” spokesman Scott McIntyre said.
Australia would be the first country to mandate plain packaging of cigarettes.
New Zealand, Canada and Britain have considered a similar policy and are likely to be watching to see if Australia succeeds. BATA has called on the government to cancel its plans for plain packaging and consult with the industry.
It argues alcohol and fast food companies wouldn’t stand having their branding taken away from them.
The company also claims plain packaging would encourage a black market in tobacco.
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